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Flooded Heartland of Greece Sparks Public Health Fears

Greece flooded
The main highway between Athens and Thessaloniki is flooded. Credit: AMNA

A week after the passing of Storm Daniel, which caused destruction in Central Greece in Thessaly, the agricultural heartland of the country, remains flooded.

Greece has asked for EU assistance after the floods in the region claimed the lives of at least 16 people.

The storm resulted in the most rain, 910 millimeters (3 feet) on Zagora near Thessaly’s port town of Volos, according to Meteo, the country’s weather service. About 100 kilometers (60 miles) inland, the town of Karditsa saw 659 millimeters (2 feet) of rainfall.

Parts of Larissa, the biggest city in Thessaly remain underwater.

The situation remains difficult in the surrounding villages, with huge swathes of the countryside still covered by mud and flood water as operations to reach trapped residents continued.

Among the many problems created are the scores of dead animals whose rapid collection is a critical health issue, as the increased humidity also attracts large mosquito populations, exacerbating the health threat.

Several thousand animals have reportedly died and estimates suggest a significantly higher final number once the waters recede.

At the same time, there is great concern about the pollution of the water table by oil stored in tanks for agricultural needs and carried away in the floods. The same holds true for pesticides and fertilizers in storage.

Greece’s main highway remains flooded

The Aegean Motorway, linking northern and southern Greece, is closed off at the Tempi valley section due to overflowing by Pinios River, the managers said on Monday.
There is extensive flooding in the Gyrtoni-Sykourio region.

The sections operating normally are between Thessaloniki and Leptokarya, and from the Nikea (Larissa) junction to Athens, both sections being open to traffic in both directions.

In comments on Monday, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Christos Staikouras said that he is confident circulation will be restored within the next few days, though the full extent of the damage on the road cannot be assessed until the water recedes completely.

Staikouras was less confident about the restoration of train service, however.

“We have extensive damage to electrical and mechanical equipment, infrastructure, superstructure and bridges on the rail network. This means that it will be difficult to fully restore the Athens-Thessaloniki route in the next few weeks. The existing service to Domokos [from Athens] may possibly continue and buses may be employed from Larissa on, but the damage is significant,” he said.

Up to five years will be required for the lands of the Thessalian plain, which were affected by the bad weather Daniel, to reach their former state, Dr. Nikolaos Danalatos, Dean and Professor of Agriculture & Plant Ecology, University of Thessaly told iefimerida.

“It’s really going to take four to five years to turn all of these materials into soil. All this mass, which cannot be cultivated at least for the first one or two years, will turn to “stone” and will not yield. People will try but their production will be greatly reduced.”

Storm Daniel moved to Libya where floods swept away entire neighborhoods and wrecked homes in multiple coastal towns in the east of the North African nation.

As many as 2,000 people were feared dead, one of the country’s leaders said on Monday.

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